Tag Archives: bargain wine

If You Drink Cheap Wine, Drink It Young

8 Apr

Every cheap wine isn’t a good deal.  You already know this.

All of us at one time or another has grabbed a bottle off the shelf because we’re attracted by its low, low price.  We are lured by the hope that this wine will be the steal of the century, the greatest bottle ever at a rock bottom price.  Problem is, it doesn’t always happen that way.  Best case scenario is that the wine is simply boring; worst and all-too-often-the-case scenario is that it just plain sucks.   Yesterday, while reading an article from winebusiness.com called, “Consumers Respond to Grocery Outlet Wines,” I was reminded of all the times I’ve purchased wine based primarily on price, paying little attention to other factors, only to be disappointed later.  In general, winebusiness.com article puts a primarily positive spin on the Grocery Outlet wine selection (which leans heavily on wines in the $3 to $6 range), but it also offers insight into how large outlet stores get their wine at such deep discounts.  This is important information for wine drinkers to understand, but given that your average wine drinker doesn’t sit around reading dry industry publications, I’ve decided to highlight the important parts here in my blog, just in case an average wine drinker happens to read it some day.  Why?  Because understanding how the mechanics of discounted wine works can help all of us make better wine choices in the future, particularly when we’re rummaging around in the bargain bin.

According to Doug Due, Director of Wine for Grocery Outlet, one of the primary ways the chain gets its wine at such low prices is by buying back vintages.  What does this mean, exactly?  As Mr. Due’s explains, this is when “a brand is releasing its latest vintage, such as an ’09, but still has ’07 or ’08 vintages available and needs to move the older “juice” in order to focus on the new one.”  Given that the seller (in this case the winery) needs to move inventory, the buyer (in this case Grocery Outlet) is in the position to negotiate a very low price, allowing them to offer the wine to their customers at a deep discount.  Sounds like everybody wins, right?

Well, maybe…sometimes.  Allow me to explain.  The vast majority (and I mean vast, like 98%) of all wine produced in any region, in any country on earth is intended for early consumption. Early, as in right now, or at least within a year or so of the vintage date.  Now, this doesn’t mean that all those wines turn to vinegar in 18 months, but they’re also not getting any “better” for those extra months sitting in somebody’s warehouse.  Contrary to popular belief, most older vintage wines are not improved simply because they have some age on them. Therefore, drinking an aged bargain wine actually means that you don’t experience it at its freshest, which is arguably when it’s at its best. Don’t get me wrong, many bottles will taste just fine with age; in these (best) cases they just aren’t much different than when they were first released.  However, there are a few types of wine that really, truly should be drunk within that first-year window because after that time they are typically tired and over the hill (i.e. they taste pretty sucky).  These are the wines I would, personally, steer clear of at the Grocery Outlet or any stores that sell back vintage wines at a steep discount.

In the interest of helping you drink better on the cheap, here’s my short list of what to avoid in the back vintage bargain bin:

  1. Dry Rosé
  2. Sauvignon Blanc (particularly from New World producers, like New Zealand)
  3. Unoaked Chardonnay
  4. Pinot Grigio
  5. Gamay (absolutely and especially if it’s labeled Beaujolais Nouveau)
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Forget Green Beer, Make Mine Green Wine

17 Mar

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and while many of you will indulge in an ice cold beer tinted green by McCormick’s food coloring, I’ll be drinking green wine.  And by green wine I mean Vinho Verde, a light, low alcohol, slightly fizzy white from Portugal whose name literally translates as “green wine.”  But, it’s not green.  Not in terms of its color, anyway.  The green in this case refers to the wine’s youthfulness.  Vinho Verde is not the kind of wine you lay down in your cellar and fret over how many years you should wait until its perfectly aged and ready to drink.  Happily for the impatient among us (that’s me!), it is best when it’s super fresh and meant to be drunk immediately after you purchase it.

Given its name, Vinho Verde is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day beverage choice for those, like me, who would rather forgo the Guinness or green Bud Light, but there are also a whole slew of reasons to consider reaching for the VV well after the holiday has ended.  Here are my top 5:

1.  A good green wine can be had for very little green.  There are lots of great Vinho Verdes to be had in the $7 to $11 range.

2.  Vinho Verde’s alcohol level usually hovers around 10%, meaning you don’t have to worry about getting buzzed on a single glassful.

3.  Although it’s not fully sparkling like Champagne, Vinho Verde does have a small amount of fizz.  This spritz makes the wine feel exceptionally fresh and lively.  Not to mention, it’s just plain fun.

4.  It’s the perfect picnic wine — light, fresh, great with finger foods, and easy to love.

5.  Vinho Verde’s flavor profile — crisp green apple and crunchy pear with a twist of lime — makes it a perfect Spring and Summer sipper, meaning you can enjoy it well beyond St. Patrick’s Day.